If the vast, low-lying Portes du Soleil ski area has a soul, it’s Morzine. With an attractive old village at its core, lively nightlife and plenty of skiing, it’s a good value, easy to reach, year-round resort. But snow reliability can be a problem.
From the building of the "Grand Hotel" by Francois Baud in the 1920's, Morzine changed from a small Savoyarde village subsisting on farming and slate mining into a large international mountain resort. Its easy transfer from Geneva Airport makes it perfect for short breaks, but in good snow conditions there’s enough skiing for a full week or more.
The town itself is large and sprawling with several satellite villages, but has an attractive core. There is a good variety of places to stay, with chalets, apartments, and hotels (including 1 and 2 star options), and plenty of restaurants and bars.
Morzine’s own ski area is shared with Les Gets.This is covered by the Portes du Soleil pass but is not a part of the main circuit. It’s accessed from the Pleney and Crusaz lifts along the South West side of town, or from the Telecabine at Nyon, on its far southern edge. The runs are mostly short blues and reds but there are some challenges for experts.
On its other side, Morzine connects into the main Portes Du Soleil circuit linking Avoriaz and Champery to Morgins and Chatel. Access is either from the centre of town via the Super Morzine lift, or from the outlying (but bus-connected) hamlets at Ardent and Les Prodains, which have their own lifts.
And that is all the skiing most visitors could possibly want. But for determined explorers there are further small isolated outposts of the Portes Du Soleil at La Grande Terche above St Jean d’Aulps, and at Abondance which are both within range, particularly if you’re staying in Morzine’s satellite villages at Montriond and Essert Romand. And if you want a break from the Portes du Soleil, Samoens (linked to Flaine) is only an hour away by car.
So there’s no shortage of runs to choose from in good snow conditions. And there’s the rub, because almost all the skiing is below 2000m. In a blizzard on a bitterly cold day, Morzine’s short, tree-lined runs are a much nicer place to be than the bleak, exposed bowls above high altitude resorts. But in a warm Spring, or a mild December, Morzine may need to live up to its promose of being a genuine year-round resort with plenty of things to do besides skiing.
There are plenty of ski rental shops, but their prices are quite high if you simply walk into them when you arrive. ALPINRESORTS.com works with several ski hire shops in and around Morzine, and can secure discounts of up to 60% on the walk-in price if you book in advance using this link.
SKISET also has two outlets in Morzine, and will give discounts of up to 50% if you book online.
+ Choice of a medium sized local ski area or the enormous Portes Du Soleil.
+ Good nightlife and plenty to do off the slopes
+ Easy to get to from Geneva or UK
+ Good range of accommodation
- Poor snow record
- Weekend crowds
- Sprawling town can be inconvenient
- Not many local challenges for experts
Pleney is the main mountain and where the local ski schools hang out. The summit is a broad plateau ideal for beginners and good long blues weave through the trees to the village below. Anyone other than experts can easily enjoy a half day or more here. Challenging skiing is limited although there is the Stade de Slalom down the face of the mountain - ideal for showing off to the spectators on the terrace of the Hotel L'Equipe. If you don't want to immediately return to Morzine, from the summit you can ski to Nyon Chamossiere (see below) or down to Les Gets, from where they can ski both the Les Chavannes / Rainfoilly sector or the Mont Chery sector.
For more testing runs, head across to Nyon-Chamossiere, either via Le Grand Pre or Les Fys, which both have lifts to the Nyon Plateau. From there many blues and reds slope back to Morzine or around to Les Gets but for a tougher test you can head up to the Pointe de Nyon. L'Aigle starts out red zig-zagging from the summit and then ends with optional black bumps - it often has bumpy patches following a line straight down.
From the Plateau you can also ski across to Chamossiere - a single peak with one chairlift but a great bumpy black under the chair and a stiff red on the other side. In good conditions there's a lot of good just-off-piste to the sides of both.
In contrast, Super Morzine is mainly a route to Avoriaz but on sunny days it's a great place for beginners and intermediates to practice their turns on wide, open pistes.
Please see the separate sections on the Avoriaz ski area, the Les Gets ski area and the Champery ski area for further skiing in the Portes du Soleil. People who are staying in Morzine's outlying hamlets at Ardent and Les Prodains will usually start off their skiing in the Avoriaz area not the Morzine one.
If you're staying in or near the centre of Morzine, the main nursery areas are the summit of Pleney and the Nyon Plateau. Both are directly accessed by telecabine so you don't need to ski down at the end of your lesson. And both have mountain restaurants for inter-run refreshment.
The runs around Super Morzine, the route on skis to Avoriaz, are also a good beginners' area.
Those staying in the outlying Morzine villages and hamlets might choose different areas. There are good beginners' slopes at les Lindarets, close to Ardent. Novices based at Les Prodains have a tougher time. There is a blue run coming down the mountain from Azoriaz but in general this is a black run area. Generally they are better off learning to ski on the main beginners slopes in Avoriaz or on Pleney above Morzine.
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Once you're beginning to conquer the whole mountain, the area really opens up. There's really no local skiing that you won't be able to attempt (except maybe the Points of Nyon or Chamossiere) so you'll be spoiled for choice anywhere.
There are off-piste opportunities in Morzine and in the right conditions these can be great. Directly below the Chamossiere chair there used to be a long black run with a great gradient but it's now left as an off-piste area and you can spend many runs yo-yoing up and down and exploring further afield. Similarly in good conditions, there is off-piste fun to be had below Pointe de Nyon, but be careful, there are dangerous cliffs here, so a guide is recommended.
If you cross over to Les Gets, (on the way look out for interesting runs through the trees, especially around La Ranfoilly) the far side of Mont Chery has black runs below the Planeys and Chery Nord lifts, and if it's snowed recently, it's not hard to find good off-piste opportunities near them.
But experts will want to take advantage of their Portes du Soleil pass and tackle greater challenges around Avoriaz including the steep black runs at les Hauts Forts down to Les Prodains (one of Morzine's outlying hamlets, and a good place for Advanced skiers to stay in Morzine), the Swiss Wall into Champery and the offpiste below the Pointe de Mossette heading towards Les Crosets. Further around the circuit, there's good off-piste coming down from Tete de Linga near Chatel and genuinely challenging moguls from the top of the Comebois to Plaine Dranse near Ardent (another outlying village of Morzine's).
To find dedicated snowboard and freestyle facilities you need to head further away to Avoriaz or Mont Cheri.
The mountain eating near Morzine generally lives up to the gastronomic reputation of the area - it is, however, difficult to completely escape the traditional ham and cheese laden dishes beloved of the Savoyard.
But, when it's howling a snowy gale and you're tucking into a perfect "Patates au reblochon" (literally, potatoes and cheese) in the "inner sanctum" of Francois' kitchen at Chez Nannon on the Nyon Plateau, you might not want to escape. It's a perfect way to enjoy bad weather although when its sunny the service on the terrace can be slow and chaotic. In any case booking is necessary.
Alternatively, there are a handful of restaurants at the bottom of the Choucas chair on the way to Les Gets, a big self service on the Plateau itself and a couple of restaurants on the Pleney plateau.
Click on the links for more information on the mountain restaurants near the other Portes du Soleil ski resorts of Les Gets and Avoriaz.
Chez Nannon, Nyon
Phone: +33 (0) 450 792115
Les Mouilles, Le Pléney
Phone: +33 (0) 609 958119
Le Naborm, Le Pléney
Phone: +33 (0) 450 790203
Phone: +33 (0) 684 079303
Restaurant des Crêtes de Zorre, Super Morzine
Phone: +33 (0) 450 792473
Restaurant "Pointe de Nyon", Plateau de Nyon
Phone: +33 (0) 450 791174
Snack du Pléney / Restaurant Portes du Soleil, Pléney
Phone: +33 (0) 450 792478
Le Vaffieu, Le Pléney
Phone: +33 (0) 450 790943
Morzine sprawls across the head of the Vallee D'Aulps with Avoriaz dominating the Hauts Forts peaks to the East. A far cry from the sleepy Savoyard village that began to waken when Francois Baud built the original Grand Hotel, it's now a proper Alpine town whose main industry is tourism; both winter and summer.
It's history results in a mélange of old and new, with some odd French 60s architecture in between. It's not as well controlled as some other resorts so there are some odd apartment blocks in between the traditional chalets and barns.
Very popular with the French during school holidays, it's a favourite with Brits, the Dutch and Belgians. As expected in a town of this size this means a profusion of bars, restaurants, accommodation and facilities of all types (and budgets).
There are plenty of ski rental shops, but their prices are quite high if you simply walk into them when you arrive. Some hotels and tour operators have recommended shops, but they rarely offer the best value even if they give a small discount (usually just 5% or 10%) to the hotel or tour operator's guests. Generally, if you want to save money, you're much better off booking in advance with a reliable service provider like the one below.
Skiset has an excellent reputation for hiring out good modern equipment for skiers and boarders of all standards and has two outlets in Morzine, so one should be very close to your accommodation. If you book online in advance, you can save up to 50% on what you would pay if you walk into the shop. You will also save time when you arrive in the resort, because your ski rental equipment is reserved, fully prepared and ready and waiting for you.
Morzine is a busy little town with more bars and restaurants than you'll need. It's difficult to miss restaurants offering typical mountain food and Savoyard specials - for great fondue at a good price head to La Barrique while Le Café Chaud has the ski resort's cheapest Savoyard menu. For pizzas L'Etale and Le Clin d'Oeil are popular with English holidaymakers. For a more 'local' experience, head to Le Pique-Feu: a food shop by day, by night it serves the same produce in a charming cosy dining room behind the shop.
Finding a higher level of cuisine is harder but Le Chamade is a true gourmet experience. Home to the top local celebrity chef Thierry Thorens, he uses local produce to create traditional recipes with a gastronomic twist. Most of the good hotel restaurants serve a varied menu - the three course menu in L'Atelier is highly recommended. Le Restaurant du Chalet Philibert, on the Prodains road, is known for its excellent haute cuisine food and beautifully designed dining room. The Rhodos hotel has a younger feel to it and, for a quick snack, serves excellent hand-made sandwiches. Home made aperitifs are the speciality at the cosy traditional restaurant of La Grange, while the reasonably priced menu in La Flamme is also very popular. If your taste-buds are crying out for something hot and spicy Le Maharaja does a decent curry. If you're prepared for a trip out of town, La Chalande at Ardent is excellent and L'Amandier in St Jean D'Aulps is worth the journey.
There are various fast food shacks around the ski resort. Le Main à la Pate on the Place de la Crusaz is open until 10pm serving pizzas, crêpes, and ice-creams, while the Burger Place at the Pléney end of the Taille is the only place for burgers and also does a mean full English breakfast. For afternoon tea Café Tyrolia is the ski resort's original tea-shop with an extensive menu of coffees, teas and cake.
The town is equally populated with bars. The Dixie Bar is Morzine's Irish pub and the first port of call for many: football is regularly shown on the big screens and there's live music most evenings. Seasonnaires gather at the famous band nights at the English run Garage Bar on the route towards Prodains and Avoriaz. Back in town most of the action takes place on Taille de Mas du Pléney or 'Bar Street', a noisy strip of restaurants, bars and cafés running between the Pléney lift and Morzine's Tourist Office. Down the same staircase are the Coyote Bar, Le Boudha Café and the Cavern, with L'Opera nightclub next door. The Coyote Bar kicks off later on and has pool tables and arcade games for evening entertainment. Le Boudha Café has a more relaxed, cosy atmosphere with comfy sofas if you get there early. The English-run Cavern is a lively sports bar where football fans can watch matches on the big screen. Seasonnaires enjoy the fancy dress nights on a Tuesday, the two hour early evening 'happy hour' and the lethal shooters bar. The nearby Le Crépuscule was refurbished recently and attracts a young crowd - on a busy night there is dancing room on the bar only.
Away from the Taille Le Café Chaud is a local hangout with a tropical theme and a vibrant atmosphere, while at the other end of town on the road towards Montriond the bar in the Hotel Ridge is a sleek addition to the evening scene.
There's never a problem in finding somewhere suitable to kick back in your ski boots in Morzine.
There's never a problem in finding somewhere suitable to kick back in your ski boots and tell tall tales of demonic black runs. On the whole après ski in Morzine is resort-based, and it is almost as important as the skiing itself. Le Dixie Bar on Rue du Bourg is popular with Brits with pool tables, games, live rugby and football on the big screens and usually has live music for early evening après-ski entertainment. Classier is Le Boudha Café, where you can also buy the Asian furniture if you like it. For an après ski knees-up you can try and get in at Crépuscule. It's small, busy, full of Dutch and Swedes and there's a risk that you might not get round to taking off your boots until bedtime.
Le Rhodos is for more chilled out après ski with relaxing music, free newspapers and comfy sofas - and betting at the PMU counter. Cheap, strong beer pulls in the crowds early on to the Bar Robinson; another popular venue with the English. Surf the web with your après-ski at the Action Sports Café which as well as internet terminals has a comfortable decking area and outside bar for those sunnier days, plus a Playstation for nippier nights. A more French alternative to the après-ski can be found in La Théière du Berger with its beautiful selection of warm teas and hand-made cakes.
If you're determined to make a big night out of it the ski resort has two nightclubs, L'Opera and Le Paradis du Laury's, and both are open until the early hours.
Shopping is almost a sport in Morzine. There are numerous sports shops catering for skiers while boarders will find plenty to buy at the English-run Park snow and skate shop. The regional crockery on sale at Poterie Menu on Rue du Bourg is the perfect present to take home, as are the local cheeses, meats and honey on sale at the regular market stalls down by Place de l'Eglise. The other food shops around town are typical for a French village. Champion and Shopi are the best supermarkets, though for a true taste of France buy meat from the boucherie and bread from the boulangerie. There are plenty of ATM cash points around the resort as well as 'tabacs' and pharmacies, and a good Maison du Presse for books about the local area and mountains.
The Palais Des Sports has an indoor public ice rink where local teams compete in ice hockey matches throughout the season. A second, smaller outdoor rink by the Tourist Office is also open through the winter season. The Tourist Office also offers a programme of weekly events including visits to cheese makers, welcome drinks, tobogganing and tours of the resort.